“It is Solved by Walking”
June 8, 2020
Solvitur ambulando. “It is solved by walking.” It is a Latin phrase that traces its
roots to the Greek philosopher Diogenes in the 4th century BCE. When he was
challenged with an impossible, metaphysical question, he is said to have replied
with this very practical response: Solvitur ambulando.
I keep thinking about this quote during the course of this pandemic, even moreso
because my wife and I find ourselves taking walks nearly every morning
nowadays. We need to get out of the house, to have some quiet space to think
creatively, and we need to move our bodies in ways that recharge our spirits. We
have walked alone (We take turns—we have young kids!) and we have walked
with dear friends, six feet apart, through our neighborhood and local parks.
On these walks, I have reflected at length about our current crisis, I have
practiced gratitude by holding space for the many dear friends and family
members we have in our lives, I have prayed, and I have centered myself down
to face another challenging day of working and parenting full time at home.
It feels like these walks are a solution to the many challenges we face these
days. Life is still a daily struggle, but one that feels more manageable when we
make time to walk.
Reading and listening to the news lately, and seeing images of protesters
marching in cities all over the world as we react collectively to the killing of
George Floyd and others, this phrase keeps coming to mind, as well.
By showing up en masse to protest injustices, by putting foot to pavement, and
by giving voice to decades and centuries of systemic oppression, it appears that
protestors may make a true and measurable impact in the long walk toward full
justice and equality. Marching and walking have long been fundamental tools
used by those who engage in nonviolent activism.
You know, Jesus and his followers did a lot of walking, too. Their feet were no
doubt dusty from miles of walking as they engaged in the hard work of
inaugurating God’s reign in this world. They traveled about Galilee, Judea—and
even into Samaria and predominantly Gentile territory—teaching, healing, and
demonstrating a new vision of an inclusive world. They walked in order to shape a world according to God’s life-giving purposes, in stark contrast to the world
ordered by the Roman imperial vision of conquest and domination.
The idea of “walking” is also symbolic of the life of discipleship. The images of
“walking,” “journey,” and “pilgrimage” have long been used as metaphors for the
Christian life. I remember singing the hymn “In the Garden” often as a youth. It
spoke deeply to me, and was one of my great grandmother’s favorite hymns. The
familiar hymn evokes this theme to describe growing ever deeper in one’s
spiritual life: “And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am
his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other, has ever, known!”
Friends, we are off the map when it comes to life as Christians and as
congregations in the midst of this pandemic. Many of us white folk and white
churches feel like we are off the map, too, when it comes to trying to understand
what it means to be white allies in this particular moment in time. Tod Bolsinger’s
book, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory rings
ever more truly to me right now. There is no map for where we are at and where
we are going. And yet we must continue walking.
My favorite poem is one by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado:
“Caminante, son tus huellas el camino, y nada más; caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar. Al andar se hace camino, y al volver la vista atrás se
ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar. Caminante, no hay camino, sino
estelas en la mar.”
Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no
road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon
glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wanderer, there
is no road–Only wakes upon the sea. (Antonio Machado, Campos de Castilla)
There is no road forward, friends, except the one that we make ourselves. We
are all in process, growing, learning, adapting, and changing, and we must keep
moving forward. As the Spirit leads us, our very footsteps will make the path. We will meet this moment by walking.
Anybody up for a walk?